STEVE EMBER: And this is
Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Today we
visit the Indiana Dunes. These hills of sand are near Chicago,
Illinois. They rise on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of America's five
FAITH LAPIDUS: More than two million people
visit the sand hills in the middle-western state of Indiana each year. The
winds along Lake Michigan created some of these dunes in ancient times.
Other dunes may be building right now. The winds create dunes when they
drop loose sand onto land. Some dunes look partly round. Others take
the form of long, narrow hills.
Visitors from all over the world explore
the area near the Indiana Dunes. They swim and sail on the lake.
They watch birds in the wetlands. They study plant life in the rich
forests of oak and maple trees. The smooth sands of the dunes and
lakeshore make a clear musical sound when people walk on them. Some of
these sounds can be heard ten meters away. Visitors often say that the
sand dunes "sing."
STEVE EMBER: The Indiana state government and the
federal government control more than six thousand hectares of land along the
lake. They operate parks with visitors' areas and scientific research
stations. Supervision by these agencies guarantees that the land will
always belong to the public. Laws protect the plants, animals, and natural
and historical points of interest.
During the twentieth century,
many people worked hard to save the dunes from development for industrial and
port uses. This was not easy. The land along that area of Lake
Michigan is extremely valuable. Some of the land provides important lake
ports. Industries and Indiana's natural gas company also operate along the
FAITH LAPIDUS: In the early nineteen fifties, some companies were
removing five tons of sand each day from the dunes. Scientists of the
Indiana Geological Survey investigated the sand supply in nineteen
fifty-two. They said that the dunes would be gone in fifty to one hundred
years if companies continued to remove sand at that rate. The wind and
waves of Lake Michigan created the dunes over thousands of years. Yet
people could destroy the dunes in a lifetime.
EMBER: The federal government established the National Park Service in nineteen
sixteen. A Chicago businessman named Stephen Mather was its first
director. Mr. Mather created many national parks. He wanted the
Indiana dunes to be a national park, too. However, the United States had
entered World War One in nineteen seventeen. Congress was not thinking
about creating parks. It was thinking about soldiers and military
Public support for a protected dunes park continued to
grow, however. In nineteen twenty-three, Indiana passed a bill providing
tax money to buy property along the lake from its private owners. In
nineteen twenty-six, the Indiana Dunes State Park opened. It contained
more than eight hundred hectares of land.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Area citizens,
scientists and visitors were pleased with the state park. But they did not
feel satisfied. They wanted much more land along the lake protected from
being used for more factories and industrial ports. Activist Dorothy Buell led
the campaign for a national park in the dunes. She formed the Save the
Dunes Council in nineteen fifty-two.
Indiana's representatives in the
United States Senate opposed the proposed park. They said ports on the lake
would provide more jobs for local workers than a national park. Yet the
Save the Dunes Council found a powerful friend in United States Senator Paul
Douglas. He represented the nearby state of Illinois. Senator
Douglas loved the dunes. Every year he would introduce a bill to create an
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. But every year the bill failed to
STEVE EMBER: In nineteen sixty-six, people who wanted more
development finally reached a compromise with people who wanted a national
park. Congress first passed a bill to develop more ports. It also
created the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. More land was added to the
park in later legislation. Today more than six thousand hectares of the
federal Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore also include the Indiana Dunes State
FAITH LAPIDUS: The Save the Dunes Council has been involved
in many other battles. It has successfully fought a number of
threats. These include the use of vehicles in the park. Sand mining.
An airport on the lake. And a nuclear power center near the park.
The council has also pressed for stronger enforcement of air and
water pollution control laws in the industrial areas near the park.
STEVE EMBER: A modern federal road follows a
walking path in the dunes called the Beach Trail. Long ago, this trail was
a path between two forts. Settlers built the forts to provide protection
against attacks by native Indian tribes. These forts became Chicago,
Illinois, and Detroit, Michigan.
In eighteen twenty-two, a trader
from the state of Michigan settled in the Indiana Dunes. This man, Joseph
Bailly, opened a store and raised a family near Lake Michigan. He
exchanged warm blankets and guns for the animal furs supplied by Indians and
At first, Mr. Bailly and his family lived in a small
wood home. The trader was building a bigger house when he died. The
National Park Service has repaired the outside of this large white home.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Later, a student from the University of Chicago
brought scientific knowledge to the dunes. Henry Chandler Cowles received
money from the university to study landforms and plant fossils from the time
when ice covered much of the world. In eighteen ninety-six, Mr. Cowles
decided the Indiana dunes would be an excellent place for his research.
Mr. Cowles' studies showed how plant communities could make
important changes in land. His work demonstrated how groups of plants
could create conditions for a sand dune to become a living forest. He became a
well-known professor and researcher. The work of Henry Chandler Cowles in
the Indiana Dunes helped spread the science of ecology throughout the world.
STEVE EMBER: Other scientists have explained how the sand hills
formed. They say a huge thick river of ice helped create the Indiana
dunes. Thousands of years ago this glacier moved over what is now central
Indiana. As the glacier moved, heavy ice crushed rocks into very small
pieces. Over time, part of the glacier became a body of water called Lake
Chicago, an early version of Lake Michigan. The melting glacier dropped
the sand it had created around the lake. The sands of the present-day Lake
Michigan are always moving. The winds and waves of the lake carry sand to
the surrounding land.
Strong winds lift the sand and drop it on
the land below. This process starts building new dunes.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Over time, plant life develops on these sand hills. For
example, the cottonwood tree is usually first to grow on a new dune. Then the
winds dig a hole in the sand. The winds use loose sand from the hole to
create a large dune that moves. Such a dune can damage or destroy anything
in its way. But cottonwood trees can help. The trees grow roots
along their trunks as sand buries them. The cottonwood roots help hold the
dune in place.
STEVE EMBER: A dune called
Mount Baldy guards the northern end of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Beautiful trees encircle its lower parts. Thousands of people climb the
thirty-eight meters to the top of Mount Baldy each year. But getting there can
be difficult. Climbers discover that their footsteps up the tall hill of
sand often cause them to fall back again.
Local people tell about
a mysterious woman who once lived in a small house not far from Mount
Baldy. Alice Marble Gray moved to the Dunes from Chicago at age
thirty-five. Alice shocked people by swimming in Lake Michigan without a
swimming suit. Fishermen compared her to the Roman goddess Diana. So began
the traditional story of Diana of the Dunes.
FAITH LAPIDUS: This
legend says Diana fell in love with a man who treated her badly. She died
in nineteen twenty-five. Health officials said her body showed evidence of
beatings. As the years passed, people have claimed that they sometimes see her
swimming in the lake. They say that in the moonlight, you can still see
Diana running along the sands of the Indiana Dunes.
STEVE EMBER: This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It
was produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.
LAPIDUS: And I'm Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS
in VOA Special English.